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Superintendent's Weekly Update 11/20/2020

posted Nov 20, 2020, 10:37 AM by Bruce Bailey

Friday, November 20, 2020

Dear RSU 71 Students, Families, Staff, School Board and Community, 

First, warm wishes for a happy Thanksgiving!  I’ll be taking some time with immediate family next week, and so the next Friday update will be sent on December 4th, unless something urgent needs to be communicated before then. Thanksgiving won’t be the same this year, with no extended family members coming up to see us and no travel down to see our elders. Yet, our hearts will be full of gratitude for many blessings, which will include a turkey dinner and pumpkin pie. 

COVID-19 Update - Today, it was announced at noon by the  Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Education (DOE) that Waldo county has stayed GREEN, with no asterisks attached. Nevertheless, we continue to be significantly impacted by the pandemic. Just yesterday, there was a positive case of the coronavirus in an individual associated with Troy Howard Middle School. Twenty-two students, mostly sixth-graders, and seven teachers will need to quarantine through December 1. Since the teachers are mostly associated with the sixth grade, we have needed to move all sixth graders to the RED-Light/Remote mode. All families and staff affected were notified yesterday, and a Robo-email went to all the families of THMS. The seventh and eighth-grades may continue to come to school daily and in person according to the GREEN Plan, and the high school, in which students are more mature and better positioned to do remote learning, will continue to be in YELLOW. We may well need to move the middle school to the YELLOW/Hybride mode after Thanksgiving if there are more cases. So far, however, not a single primary contact of the now four positive cases in RSU 71-- one at CASS, one at Ames, and two at THMS -  has tested positive. May this trend continue! And may the individual infected have a safe recovery!

Speaking of Thanksgiving - We (Again) Need Your Help - Many ask whether we plan to move to the RED-Light/Remote Learning Mode after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. The concern is that a great many people will be traveling and gathering and not necessarily following essential safety protocols, including wearing masks, staying socially distant, and frequently sanitizing hands. Many are concerned that these healthful practices will cease at the very moment when there is a considerable spike of positive cases in Maine. I had been waiting to learn of our color designation. Since it is GREEN and since there is an abundance of evidence accumulating about the negative impacts on children and families in remote instruction, and the relative safety of schools, we intend to stay the course in GREEN for K-8 and YELLOW for 9-12 students, for as long as we are able. However, to stay in school, it will be necessary for every one of us in the RSU 71 community to follow the CDC’s advice (italicized below). We wish to protect our students and protect our valiant educators and support staff, some of whom feel a bit like “sitting ducks,” to use one vivid term recently shared with me. Many district staff members are understandably anxious about the upward trend in Maine's positive cases as the holiday season approaches.

Our RSU 71 families, parents, grandparents and guardians, and students have generally been FABULOUS about following medical advice for the sake of our students’ education; I fervently pray that these practices will continue during and through and beyond the holiday season. It is good for us to be together in school. Please continue to help us enable our wonderful students and staff to learn together in school though doing your part. It has never been so clear how deeply interconnected and how we are impacted by one another in invisible ways, simply by breathing. From the CDC:

As we see the escalating impact of COVID-19 across our state and the nation, we recognize that friends and families are looking for ways to connect and to maintain normal traditions in an abnormal time. As the holiday season approaches, it is critically important that our school communities continue to do everything we can in order to keep our schools safe, open, and able to provide in-person instruction.

This may mean making the safe and difficult choice to limit holiday gathering and travel, as we know that both have additional risks for exposure and transmission of the virus. The United States Center for Disease Control has issued strong guidance to the American people to limit our interactions and travel this holiday season so that we can all gather safely in the future. Further details of the CDC’s recommendations can be found here.  

Based on the recommendations of the community health experts, we strongly encourage our staff and students to celebrate each holiday within your current household only and to limit any large gatherings.

Any staff or students who travel to any state other than New Hampshire or Vermont (no restrictions for these two states only as of 11/16/20; subject to change) will be required to either

  1. quarantine for 14 days upon return to Maine, or

  2. quarantine until receiving a negative test result. The test must be taken either:

    1. in the state, you are visiting and no more than 72 hours prior to your return to Maine, or

    2. once you return to Maine.

This is not dependent on the length of time spent within the restricted states, meaning that a day visit still requires any person to quarantine for 14 days or until a negative test result is confirmed. All members of the household who travel must test or quarantine if over 12 months old. Testing site information for Maine can be found here.

Any person who is quarantining should stay home and not have in-person contact with others unless there is an emergency.

A non-traditional Thanksgiving can be hard on all of us, and CDC has some suggestions on healthy alternatives and precautions to consider that can be found here. Please stay safe, and help us to keep our school community safe and able to provide for the students we serve.

Priority Notice from DOE - I ask all in-person educators to read here about the additional safety protocols and changes recommended by the CDC and DOE:


Request from our School Nurse Team - Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we still need to submit information to the state about students who are not vaccinated. If you have not yet signed an immunization exemption letter, please help our beautiful and very busy nurses and do so today:


Middle-Level Sports Update from AD/AP SeekinsTroy Howard Middle School had 137 students in our fall sports intramural programming. That is one-half of our current student population!  We offered engaging skill-building and intra-squad scrimmage opportunities in football, field hockey, boys and girls soccer, x-country, and golf.  We were able to run the programming for six weeks safely. Though we missed playing other schools, and there was no championship, many students who may not have come out to play competitively could take part and build their skills and confidence in sports.  We are extremely thankful for all our coaches and volunteers who helped keep our kids actively engaged and safely following all guidelines and for our students who supported each other while navigating all the school and athletics changes.

Looking to winter, we are closely monitoring the local Covid-19 numbers and what the MPA is planning for high school sports.  We are hoping to mimic our fall sports programming protocols and offer some basketball opportunities beginning in January.  Until then, we are looking for opportunities to keep kids active outdoors.  Yes, we wish for some snow!  With snow on the ground, we can offer snowshoeing.  We are also hoping to provide some winter hiking opportunities.  Meanwhile, we are looking into offering archery lessons and modified floor hockey sessions.  These are all works in progress, and we will communicate details as soon as we have them.  

That’s it for this week! This message will be Robo-emailed to all RSU 71 families, as always, and posted on our district website and my blog. Please feel free to be in touch with me, and with our awesome administrators and school nurses.

With warm wishes that the spirit of gratitude fills all our hearts (and tummies) over Thanksgiving and that we all do everything in our power to stay safe, 

Mary Alice

Mary Alice McLean
Superintendent of Schools, RSU 71
(207) 338 - 1960